Before They Were Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor in “Amistad”

As you probably know, shortly after the Academy Award nominations are announced, it’s a tradition here at The Back Row for me to do “Before They Were Stars” features on as many of the nominees as possible. I’m very happy to see the underrated Chiwetel Ejiofor finally garnering worldwide recognition for his phenomenal Oscar-nominated performance in 12 Years a Slave. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Ejiofor’s first Hollywood role was in another famous film about slavery: Steven Spielberg’s Amistad. Much like when Bob Balaban played Francois Truffaut’s interpreter in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Ejiofor portrayed Ensign James Covey, who functions as the interpreter for the kidnapped African slave, Cinque. These types of roles are usually quite thankless since they essentially consist of repeating exposition, but they are pretty challenging and impressive since they require the actor to speak in multiple languages and keep the exposition interesting.

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